Highly reproducible Fourier transform infrared (FTIR) spectra from both single onion (Allium cepa) cell walls and their constituent polymers were obtained under a variety of sampling conditions. The specificity of the chemical extraction sequence used in the preparation of the material was confirmed: pectins only are extracted by cyclohexanediaminetetraacetic acid and sodium carbonate, whereas xyloglucans are extracted by increasing concentrations of potassium hydroxide. There was very little contamination of the first potassium hydroxide extract with residual pectin. The low abundance of both phenolics and protein was also confirmed. The first sodium carbonate extraction almost completely removes esters remaining in the cell wall. We have demonstrated that FTIR spectroscopy can detect large conformational changes in pectic polymers on removal from the cell wall and on drying. FTIR spectroscopy provides a powerful and rapid assay for wall components and putative cross-links by identifying polymers and functional groups nondestructively in muro. The availability of micro-sampling and data acquisition techniques that permit subtraction of the blanket absorption of water make FTIR spectroscopy particularly suitable for studies of cell wall architecture. The use of polarizers with the microscope accessory permits determination of the orientation of particular functional groups with respect to the direction of cell elongation in carrot suspension cells.
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